As the candidate of rage and indignation, Jerry Brown faces a difficult challenge: how to find more voters who are gnashing their teeth and suffering from acid tummy because they are mad about something.
If he couldn't do it in New York, how will he succeed in places where smiling is not considered deviant behavior?
Brown's problem might be that he needs a new message. In New York, he ranted about how we must take back our country. But it may be that New Yorkers looked around at their part of the country and said: "Who wants it?"
And taking back the country won't work elsewhere, either, because most people aren't sure what that means. They can look out the window and see that everything is still there. In some neighborhoods, people wish that somebody would come and take it away.
Brown, of course, is talking about politicians and power brokers and influence peddlers, trades he practiced with great skill most of his adult life.
But even while ranting, he has to know that no matter who wins, we are going to have politicians and power brokers and influence peddlers. It's just a question of whether they are Democratic or Republican. They all wheel and deal. The alternative would be idealistic do-gooders (or goo-goos, as they're called in Chicago). And as well-meaning as they might be, they eventually spread chaos. Remember, the do-gooders took over the Democratic Party in 1972, and it has been a political booby hatch ever since.
So if Brown is to go on with his campaign, he must tap fresh fury and offer new angry themes. Really, there has to be more that is bothering people than some congressmen operating their own private loan service. Or that there are those who have the audacity to spend their money on themselves.
Because I would hate to see this entertaining primary campaign peter out, I'm going to offer a few rage-inspiring suggestions to Brown.
Several years ago, Chicago writer Bob Billings said we have entered The Age of the Jerk. Or Jerkism, as he called it.
And he was right. Society has been inundated by jerks: louts with full shopping carts muscling into the 10-item line in supermarkets; depraved souls who walk their dogs on the lawns of others; fast-lane crawlers; the boom boxers; insolent jaywalkers; and four-abreast, sidewalk-hogging lunchtime strollers.
Jerks would make a fine target for Brown. He would even get a large jerk vote, since most jerks don't realize they are jerks but think that everybody else is.
"We must take our society back," Brown could shout, "from those jerks who dial a wrong number then swear at you and slam down the phone as if it is your fault for answering your own telephone. We must no longer tolerate those jerks who pull into the middle of an intersection when there is no room for them to go forward, thus causing you to be stuck when you have the green light. We must save our nation and ourselves from those jerks who go out on a golf course without taking a lesson and make everybody behind them play a 6-hour round. Fight jerkism with Brown. Dial 1-800-No Jerks."
Then there is the seething issue of overpaid athletes, which my unscientific survey, conducted in more than 50 bars, shows to be a greater source of rage than America's schools, the savings and loan fiasco or the rising price of cable TV.
"Let us take our country back," Brown could howl, "from those overpaid athletes who have cornered 67 percent of the nation's wealth and would have 100 percent of it if the Japanese didn't have the rest. Why should a second baseman earn millions more than someone who stuffs pork and ground beef into sausage casings in a packing plant? You and I eat sausage. But have you or I ever eaten a double play? Is that the kind of future we want for our children -- no sausage but all the double plays they can't eat? Dial my number, 1-800-No Jocks."
And there are many people who are deeply angered by the thought of the likeness of Elvis Presley being put on a postage stamp. This profound question has been debated on countless talk shows, America's forum of intellect, and in the letters pages of newspapers.
So I urge Brown to let fly with: "Let us take back our nation's postage stamps from those who would honor someone who defiled the temple that was his body, as we say in California. Do you want your children looking at the envelope containing the birthday card their granny sent and seeing the user of illegal substances in the upper-right-hand corner? And, horrors, if granny sends a heavy package, maybe a dozen of these pictures? Is that the kind of postage-stamp role model we want? We must take back our country from the postage polluters. Phone 1-800-No Elvis."
Well, that ought to get him through the Pennsylvania primary. By the time he gets to California, I'll have more. Maybe something like: "Let us take back our country from those who would deny us cosmetic surgery on demand! Dial 1-800-Fanny Tuck."